How safe is your son or daughter’s university?

Apr 30, 2019, 4:43 PM | Updated: May 6, 2019, 1:40 pm
university of utah lauren mccluskey campus safety...
In the Nov. 19, 2014 photo, Pullman High School senior Lauren McCluskey is surrounded by her family before signing a letter of intent in Pullman, Wash., to compete in track for the University of Utah. McCluskey was shot and killed outside of a University of Utah dormitory on campus in Salt Lake City in 2018. (The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP)
(The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — Lauren McCluskey, a track star at the University of Utah, would have graduated this week. Thursday night at 6 p.m., she would have been wearing a cap and gown in the Jon M. Huntsman Center as Rev. France Davis addressed all her fellow graduates. Friday at 2 p.m., she would have attended a second ceremony for her fellow Communications grads.

She won’t be at either event, of course. McCluskey was shot and killed in October — murdered by the ex-boyfriend she tried to get help escaping.

In a statement issued the morning after McCluskey died, her mother described the young woman as an “outstanding student with a 3.75 GPA majoring in Communication,” who was “excited to graduate in May 2019.”

Since McCluskey’s death, campuses all over Utah have been scrutinized for their safety records as parents and students asked whether each school was doing everything it could to make sure no one else would leave college in a coffin.

At the University of Utah, more students are taking advantage of services to provide safety escorts — but we also saw plenty of room for improvement at all the schools on the list — even those touted as safe.

Utah’s safest universities

A new report from Your Local Security found Utah State University in Logan is the safest college campus in the state. But Dave & Dujanovic wanted to know if the data bears that out. We’re breaking it down for you here so you can decide for yourself which university really is Utah’s safest.

Your Local Security took their data from the U.S. Department’s Campus Safety and Security analysis 2017 report and from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, both of which you can view for yourself by clicking the links in blue.

When it comes to sexual assault, the results certainly don’t suggest that Utah State University is any safer than any of the other universities in Utah. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s data, sexual assaults are more common at USU than of Utah’s largest eight universities except for the University of Utah.

Sexual Assaults

(Source: US Department of Education)

USU, according to the data, saw nine reported rapes and twelve reported cases of what it labels as “fondling” in the year 2017 alone. The real risk, as well, is likely far worse. According to RAINN, only 23 percent of sexual assaults in the United States are ever reported.

Domestic and dating violence

(Source: US Department of Education)

Violence in relationships, likewise, is unusually high at USU, although they’re far from the worst. Adjusted for the number of students, violence in relationships is at its highest at Weber State University, while domestic violence rates at the University of Utah drastically outweigh every single other school.

The University of Utah, the data says, saw 25 cases of domestic violence – meaning of people physically, emotionally, or sexually abusing their partners – reported in 2017.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse

(Source: US Department of Education)

A cursory glance at the data for alcohol and drug abuse might make the University of Utah look particularly bad, but it’s worth noting that they have 32,800 students on their campus. Dixie State University, on the other hand, has just 9,673 students, meaning that those small spikes in drug and alcohol arrests actually represent a relatively high percentage of their student body.

Interestingly, although the data seems to suggest that Dixie is Utah’s hardest-drinking school, the Board of Education’s data doesn’t show that a single student saw disciplinary actions for drugs or alcohol the entire year.

Murders and Assaults

(Source: US Department of Education)

Most parents would say the only acceptable number of murders on a university campus is zero — and, fortunately, that’s the number at almost every school except in the state except for the University of Utah: Chen Wei Guo was murdered in October 2017, and Lauren McCluskey was murdered in October 2018.

Burglaries and thefts

(Source: US Department of Education)

You can park your car safely at USU and not worry about whether it’ll be there when you come back. In 2017, the school didn’t see a single reported motor vehicle theft – although it did see more burglaries than any school other than the University of Utah.

Changes at the University of Utah

Since the death of Lauren McCluskey last fall, campus officials at the U. say they’ve provided nearly double the number of courtesy escorts on campus from police or security from the same time last year.

university of utah courtesy escort

The University of Utah Department of Public Safety offers courtesy escorts to anyone who needs one on campus.

From January to the end of April 2018, U. Communications Director Chris Nelson told Dave & Dujanovic police and security provided 392 escorts. This year, there have already been 671.

Nelson also said there was a notable increase in requests for courtesy escorts after major crimes on campus. Escorts nearly doubled after McCluskey’s murder, and in the time since a sexual assault was reported at the U. on April 13 of this year, Nelson said police and security provided 20 escorts — again, about double from the same time frame a year ago.

A review of what happened leading up to McCluskey’s death resulted in a number of recommended changes at the U. Another set of recommendations is expected from the Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety in the coming weeks.

Listen to what happened when Debbie Dujanovic tried to find a police officer on campus in the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

affordable care act

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). Resources are also available online: udvc.org.

Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting:

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How safe is your son or daughter’s university?